With all today’s news coverage of the Columbia explosion, one might think that no one else, in the entire world, died today. If you took a second from CNN’s constant coverage to think about it, you’d realize that couldn’t possibly be the case.
For example, did you know that 40 people were killed in a train accident in Zimbabwe today? The country is in the midst of a severe gasoline shortage. People are traveling miles to get it, and carrying it back to their homes. Someone was transporting gasoline on the train and it somehow caught fire, killing 40 and injuring 60 more.
I doubt you’ve heard about it. The only reason I found it was because I was purposely looking for a non-NASA related tragedy. It took me nearly an hour to find one. The likelihood this story received even a second of coverage on your local news is next to zero. And for damn sure, it won’t make the cover of Sunday’s papers. Why? Are the lives of 7 astronauts worth more than the lives of 40 Africans? If the news is any indication, they do.
But I choose to ignore the news. I choose to ignore the Columbia. Not because death doesn’t move me. It does.
I ignored the news today because (by choice or simply lack of information) I ignore all those unnecessary deaths that never warrant breaking into my regularly scheduled programming. I either have to ignore it all or spend my life in constant mourning. I may be a New Yorker, but even I don’t have that much black clothing.
If I were to take a moment of reflection for the death of every innocent soul, I would spend my life in silence. So, I choose to honor the lives of those who died on the Columbia today by not dishonoring the lives of all those who died without the benefit of a Presidential speech, the front page of every newspaper, and millions of bytes of weblog chatter.
I think it’s awful that those people died. I think it’s awful when anyone dies prematurely. Does that mean I’ll get all weepy over one tragedy, while heedfully ignoring the hundreds of others that take place everyday, but will never make the headlines? It might make me an asshole to say I didn’t feel a thing watching the coverage today, but I’d rather be an ass than a hypocrite.
note: this entry grew out of a comments discussion I participated in in regards to this post.
by mg at February 2, 2003 2:21 AM
I didn't have the TV on at all today and I just heard about it. I have to say I agree with you.
It's like when that Nascar racer, what's his name, crashed and died and everyone acted all shocked. There was news coverage and people crying. Shit. He was known for driving a race car really fast and aggressively. He did it for years. We should be shocked that it didn't happen sooner. When you think about it, NASA has had a pretty good track record.
It's one thing when people die doing something dangerous (I'd say blasting into orbit and then falling back to Earth qualifies as dangerous) but it's entirely another when people die when just going about their lives.
I guess flaming shuttles make better news headlines than flaming Africans.
by MrBlank at February 2, 2003 3:01 AM
I agree MG. 12 palestinians gunned down. Somehow, astronauts have become modern day icons of the Wild Wild West heros. Like Daniel Boone or Davey Crockett. It's silly.
by ALPHAHEED at February 2, 2003 3:43 AM
Yeah, it's strange how newsfolk prioritize death. And aside from the senseless human loss, the saddest thing about Sept. 11 is that it's somehow blunted people's reaction to all tragedy. When the anthrax thing was over, I thought, what was the death toll, 5? Still, my heart goes out to the astronauts' families. No one deserves something like this.
by Anna at February 2, 2003 7:16 AM
MG. Dawg! You are waaay off base on this one, dawg. We must be a nation of cynics if people can't see that the Columbia astronauts are true American heros. Well, except the Israli dude, but he's an Israli hero. But man, we lost some extraordinary men and women on the shuttle yesterday... people who are heroes and role models, like Michael Jordan and Keyshawn Johnson. But don't get me wrong, the astronauts don't just compare to athletes. You can't forget about celebrities who critically injure themselves doing silly stunts --Christopher Reeve, Jason Priestley, Sonny Bono-- they are heros too. What courage! What fortitude! The embodyment of the American spirit! They are (or SHOULD BE) an inspiration to all. MG, dude, don't be such a cynic. If you'll just open your eyes and look around you. Look around... And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on. And you cast your fears aside, and you know you can survive.
by Eviltom at February 2, 2003 2:10 PM
Hey EvilTom that was the DUMBEST fucking thing I have every read!!! Your a fucking idiot like the rest of Americans!!! Fucking idoits.
by Osama at February 2, 2003 2:14 PM
CAN we just put SHARON AND ARAFAT on the next launch and pray for another Challenger?
ANOTHER DALLAS! ANOTHER DALLAS!!!
by ALPHAHEED at February 2, 2003 2:29 PM
Well, you just wrote the post I was going to put on my own site. Of course I was going to use a differnt scenario.
In my little town a little 3 year old boy walked into traffic during a rain storm. He was confused and ran the wrong direction. He died.
I was going to say something like this. That it is a tragedy, but damn not the only one. And these astronauts choose this career. It isn't like they are accountants, they have a dangerous job.
The coverage has gone a little far, even if it is a tragedy. Such is life.
by syd at February 2, 2003 4:08 PM
"Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords." As usual, all-despair CNN is droning in the background. Through sheer repitition I now know the astronauts' names. And I know the guys who man the International Space Station are stranded. But I'd bet the majority of people didn't even know the Columbia was aloft. So, if you fly the damn thing to the ISS and back successfully, you're a nobody. If your mission goes awry, you're a household name. I'm so confused.
by AnAsshole at February 2, 2003 4:28 PM
I too have felt nothing. I'm jaded by all the other deaths, that happen every frigging day, to people who are no more or less heroic than these folks. I'm sorry they died, but no more or less so than how sorry I am that gazillions of my friends have died from HIV etc.
by jadedju at February 2, 2003 10:30 PM
astronauts are still heroes to me. probably my perception of the space program is a little, well, romantic? i think it's a fairly common thing, human nature, to romanticize the skies. i'm glad that there is still an active space program, i think it's a positive thing, it's kind of a nice hobby for mankind, something that's not greedy or destructive or short-sighted. it's a good sign, and there aren't many good signs these days. things like the international space station, now that's really cool. and encouraging.
so some of my heroes died yesterday. i'm not horribly saddened, but yeah, i felt it. i'm also quite a sap at times, so there you have it.
by kd at February 2, 2003 11:36 PM
It may be no consolation to the lack of T.V. coverage but I actually had heard about the head on collision of the two trains in Zimbabwe, as well as a bank explosion elsewhere in the world that has claimed 50 dead and they are certain more people are trapped and expected dead inside of the rubble. and how did I run across such news? actually they were both in the top 5 headlines of the day at AOL.. granted they were under three different headlines about the shuttle...
by Idlenuance at February 3, 2003 12:14 AM
You know, I felt really shitty hearing about that, but I think my innocence is preserved because I have not seen or heard one newscast on it all weekend,
due to my (sometimes debilitating) aversion to TV & radio...
But I feel shitty hearing about trains in Zimbabwe, and children in the rain, and the people that are starving in Ethiopia from a drought far worse than the one in... '87? It's really a pain in the ass, this caring. But it'll be far worse if I don't use my good fortune to try to help change things.
What's my point? Oh yeah. It's one a.m. I don't need to have a point.
by Linz at February 3, 2003 12:54 AM
No, it was only 12:54am... therefore, you did need a point. Slacker.
by Eviltom at February 3, 2003 12:56 AM
Hey, I like your way of putting this, I did spend a bit of time thinking about the folk from the Columbia, but then... there is so much not mentioned in light of it that what you have said really makes sense.
by Desiree at February 3, 2003 2:23 AM
Oh, yeah. My point was, I would like to just not give a shit about anything, but instead I give a shit about everything.
by Linz at February 3, 2003 9:35 AM
You know, you are right. One might think that my grandfather did not pass on quietly, that morning, hours before the shuttle broke apart 40 miles above Texas. He didn't get a speech. One might think that his life was less significant than the seven space-faring individuals. They would be wrong. Every life has potential. Don't waste what you've got. Live life while you have it.
by quicksilver at February 3, 2003 1:05 PM
The Israeli Defense Force sent me the email address to the Israeli astronaut's family(RAMON) to send condolences. I sent my condolences. If anybody else wants the email address just write me personally. Thanks.
by LOCKHEED at February 3, 2003 7:09 PM
Completly unrelated to anything, but I somehow felt it important to note that this is the (at least) the third time "A Day in the Life" has been mined for a post title here. Weird.
by mg at February 4, 2003 1:59 PM